To follow what was going on at home while we were traveling overseas was not always easy. And to me there was something particularly disheartening about a divorce in the family. Life on the road can be unsettling enough. Today I sometimes get a sense of what we missed when a movie comes up of that era that I haven’t heard of. We know we missed the campus demonstrations and riots in the US of the late sixties and early seventies, as well as the Democratic Convention in Chicago. But with family, there was personal history that we were not a part of and that will never be a part of us. A sister’s wedding (I don’t know about her divorce of her first husband), and the birth of a nephew (the son of my other sister) do not exist in my head because we weren’t around. That year the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl. We got the news third hand from English newspapers. But, really, it didn’t mean much to us (remember my hometown was Irving Texas, then the home of the Dallas Cowboys), and any excitement I had came from dredging up memories of Thanksgiving at my parents’ home (they had moved from the home I grew up in) watching the Cowboys.
We didn’t know my sister’s new husband’s last name. We were always lacking a lot of details about such things. And whatever news we got was always limited to what would fit on a single page and, if my mother wrote the letter, to a short jumble of misspelled words. My father’s handwriting was perfect, but he only wrote about business matters, or when details were essential.
In January of 1972, when we still lived in Vienna, Peg’s mother sent us pictures of the family taken at Christmas. It was not the same family we left behind. Her mother still looked young; her father had gotten a little heavier; but all of the rest seemed to have been from somewhere else. You have to imagine that by then we had been away for almost five years. Well, with the pictures it meant we no longer had to rely on our imagination. To see how much a baby brother (Alan) had grown, for him to be as tall as Peg, if not taller, you must realize that we didn’t see these changes evolve slowly over time. When Peg saw a picture of her baby sister, she said, “Susie isn’t a thin Puckett (Peg’s maiden name)…in fact she’s definitely a little plump. But she’s a Puckett in that she now wears glasses.” We had been warned that Peg’s oldest brother Mike had grown a beard, so that wasn’t too shocking. “It wasn’t a heavy beard and looked nice on him.” But her middle brother… Well, Steve’s appearance was the most shocking: he had hair down to his shoulders…and it was wavy! Nobody had warned us of that!
“Shock” hardly expresses the feelings we had then, as we thought of our families and home, definite emotions effected us when we least expected it, but they were conflicted and never simple, but how long we stayed in Austria depended more on how well we were treated there.